March 29th, 2017
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posted by [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll at 02:51pm on 29/03/2017
So it sends me endless emails explaining how it makes my life easier. Today's was a claim that apnea sufferers who use their CPAP machines correctly halve their odds of experiencing a vehicular mishap, which is kind of funny because I almost got backed over by a car today.
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posted by [personal profile] flick at 06:56pm on 29/03/2017 under , , ,
Quicker than expected, in fact: the new floor's all done, when we were expecting it to take until tomorrow. Unfortunately, we'd ordered things like new shelves, rugs and little felt pads to go under the furniture to stop it from making scratches for delivery tomorrow to tie in with it, so we're still a little short of furniture in here. Hopefully, we'll be all sorted by tomorrow evening. Hopefully.

Jo is pleased that she has her sofa back. The sofa bed was just not a suitable substitute, her legs were always hanging off the edges.

Both the anemones and the horses have been making the most of the sunny weather we've been having recently:

watersword: An envelope with a lipstick kiss on it. (Stock: 14 Valentines)
posted by [personal profile] watersword at 02:08pm on 29/03/2017 under
The last days of magic / Mark Tompkins. Blechhhh, she explained. I suppose this could be worse but blechhhhh, I only made it like twenty pages in before I couldn't take it anymore, this is way overambitious and leaden and I duwanna. It reminds me of Grossman's The Magicians and Magician King, both of which I hated, so if you liked those, this may work for you?

The convenient marriage / Georgette Heyer. I'm very disappointed that the secretary didn't marry the remaining Winwood sister, and I wanted a lot more of the hero's sister and frankly a lot less of the heroine's brother. It's a nice change for a Heyer to be set so early -- I'm not sure of the exact date, but it's 1750's, i.e. George II, at the latest, I think.

Life after life / Kate Atkinson. A literary version of Jo Walton's Among Others, which I found much more interesting.

Textu / Fady Joudah. Had trouble connecting to this, and I'm not wholly sure I know what Joudah is trying to do.

Stoppard's theatre : finding order amid chaos / John Fleming. Although I adore Stoppard's work, I haven't read much of the academic criticism, and I'm literally aghast that this book quotes Stoppard extensively and apparently no one reads Arcadia's Gus as on the autism spectrum? Like, it didn't even come up? I'm so confused. Am I the only person who reads him like that?

The tombs of Atuan / Ursula K. Le Guin. This is pretty unrelentingly grim, and while LeGuin is always worth reading, I'm not planning on coming back to this one.

Posted by Christopher Jobson

In this collection of illustrations titled Dones d’aigua (water women), Spanish artist and illustrator Sonia Alins depicts several women immersed almost completely underwater, just a head or foot poking out from the uncertain depths of cloudy liquid. A haunting tension emerges not only from the clever split view created by utilizing translucent paper to mimic water, but also from the slightly ambiguous situation of the figures. It’s not always immediately clear if the women are swimming or drowning. You can follow more of Alins’ work on Instagram or Behance, and a few of her pieces are available as prints. (via Supersonic)

posted by [syndicated profile] in_the_pipeline_feed at 12:50pm on 29/03/2017

Posted by Derek Lowe

I meant to write about this paper at the time, but there’s no harm in highlighting it now. A group at the University of Toronto reports a neat way to make some unusual macrocycles, by closing down an amine and a carboxylic acid into an oxadiazole with the known isonitrile phosphorane reagent shown. You bring in one more carbon from an added aldehyde (propionaldehyde in most of their examples, so you turn an X-atom-long chain into an X+2-sized macrocycle.

The paper has a whole list of example where oligopeptides are closed to peptidic oxadizole macrocycles, giving 15- to 24-membered rings. Yields are often down in the 30s and 40s, sometimes below, but sometimes up into the 60% range as well. You may well be wondering why that works even to that extent, since closing macrocycles is often a capricious process. The phosphorane reagent, though, takes the mechanism through a stage where one end of the chain has a positive charge and the other end is a negatively charged carboxylate, so you have electrostatics bringing things together.

The resulting macrocycles seem to partake of some of the interesting features of their type, specifically enhanced cell permeability. (Here’s a fairly recent book on the topic). The authors took a list of their macrocycles through a PAMPA assay (which for those who haven’t run into it is an in vitro test with an artificial membrane), and found that in every case the macrocycles were significantly more permeable than the open-chain precursors. We certainly don’t understand what’s going on with such compounds, once you get past some bulk physical properties, but they do have a lot of potentially useful features.

My first thought when I saw this paper was “Hey, I’ll bet that works on things that aren’t peptides”, and I’m sure that it does. There are surely a huge number of interesting structures that you can put together relatively quickly that have an open primary or secondary amine on one end and a carboxylic acid on the other, and which could be zipped up into a library of most unusual macrocycles. I note that the folks behind this are the founders of Encycle Therapeutics, so similar thoughts have no doubt occurred to them as well!

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supergee: (monkeys)
posted by [personal profile] supergee at 07:07am on 29/03/2017 under
Some of the differently intelligent people who think fat people wouldn’t be fat if they exercised also think Nike shouldn’t make clothes for them to exercise in.

Thanx to [ profile] andrewducker
andrewducker: (Default)
supergee: (pissed)
posted by [personal profile] supergee at 06:06am on 29/03/2017 under
The problems we have because Smart Republican Paul Ryan and his followers think that insurance shouldn’t work like insurance

Thanx to [ profile] mslorelei
supergee: (shelves)
posted by [personal profile] supergee at 05:56am on 29/03/2017 under
posted by [syndicated profile] reprog_feed at 09:07am on 29/03/2017

Posted by Mike Taylor

I have about five separate subjects for Brexit-related blog-posts that I want to write today. But I am too sad and angry — and, to be honest, bitter — to write coherently about any of them.

So instead here is an artwork based on Banksy’s “Girl With a Balloon”, which I found unattributed in this tweet.

That pretty much summarises how I feel.

posted by [syndicated profile] datagenetics_feed at 12:00am on 28/03/2017

Posted by cks

My department has now been running our Unix computing environment for a very long time (which has some interesting consequences). When you run a Unix environment over the long term, old historical practices slowly build up and get carried forward from generation to generation of the overall system, because you've probably never restarted everything from complete scratch. All of this is an elaborate route to say that as part of our local password propagation infrastructure, we have a program that checks /etc/passwd and /etc/group to make sure they look good, and this program puts a 512 byte limit on the size of lines in /etc/group. If it finds a group line longer than that, it complains and aborts and you get to fix it.

(Don't ask what our workaround is for groups with large memberships. I'll just say that it raises some philosophical and practical questions about what group membership means.)

We would like to remove this limit; it makes our life more complicated in a number of ways, causes problems periodically, and we're pretty sure that it's no longer needed and probably hasn't been needed for years. So we should just take that bit of code out, or at least change the '> 512' to '> 4096', right?

Not so fast, please. We're pretty sure that doing so is harmless, but we're not certain. And we would like to not blow up some part of our local environment by mistake if it turns out that actually there is still something around here that has heartburn on long /etc/group lines. So in order to remove the limit we need to test to make sure everything still works, and one of the things that this has meant is sitting down and trying to think of all of the places in our environment where something could go wrong with a long group line. It's turned out that there were a number of these places:

  • Linux could fail to properly recognize group membership for people in long groups. I rated this as unlikely, since the glibc people are good at avoiding small limits and relatively long group lines are an obvious thing to think about.

  • OmniOS on our fileservers could fail to recognize group membership. Probably unlikely too; the days when people put 512-byte buffers or the like into getgrent() and friends are likely to be long over by now.

    (Hopefully those days were long over by, say, 2000.)

  • Our Samba server might do something special with group handling and so fail to properly deal with a long group, causing it to think that someone wasn't a member or deny them access to group-protected file.

  • The tools we use to build an Apache format group file from our /etc/group could blow up on long lines. I thought that this was unlikely too; awk and sed and so on generally don't have line length limitations these days.

    (They did in the past, in one form or another, which is probably part of why we had this /etc/group line length check in the first place.)

  • Apache's own group authorization checking could fail on long lines, either completely or just for logins at the end of the line.

  • Even if they handled regular group membership fine, perhaps our OmniOS fileservers would have a problem with NFS permission checks if you were in more than 16 groups and one of your extra groups was a long group, because this case causes the NFS server to do some additional group handling. I thought this was unlikely, since the code should be using standard OmniOS C library routines and I would have verified that those worked already, but given how important NFS permissions are for our users I felt I had to be sure.

(I was already confident that our local tools that dealt with /etc/group would have no problems; for the most part they're written in Python and so don't have any particular line length or field count limitations.)

It's probably worth explicitly testing Linux tools like useradd and groupadd to make sure that they have no problems manipulating group membership in the presence of long /etc/group lines. I can't imagine them failing (just as I didn't expect the C library to have any problems), but that just means it would be really embarrassing if they turned out to have some issue and I hadn't checked.

All of this goes to show that getting rid of bits of the past can be much more work and hassle than you'd like. And it's not particularly interesting work, either; it's all dotting i's and crossing t's just in case, testing things that you fully expect to just work (and that have just worked so far). But we've got to do this sometime, or we'll spend another decade with /etc/group lines limited to 512 bytes or less.

(System administration life is often not particularly exciting.)

Posted by Rutskarn

On returning from the set of Sister Act 3: Wait There Was a Sister Act 2?, I stop in to the tavern and the Suspicious Man asks:

posted by [syndicated profile] no_award_feed at 01:24am on 29/03/2017

Posted by Stephanie

WOMEN PLAYED NATIONAL SPORTSBALL AND IT WAS AMAZING. Behind the fold: many allcaps, some heartwarming links.

Steph Says:


Liz says:

  • Even though the Lions are my other team, I adore a lot of Crows players (Heather Anderson! Sarah Perkins! Erin Phillips!) and love watching them play. So this was a GREAT game to watch, and I had many heart attacks as I watched.
  • Speaking of Heather Anderson, when she injured her shoulder during the GF, there was speculation that this would end both her football and military career — she’s an army medic — but she seems optimistic. I love her pink helmet (which, you may remember from round 2, she wears so that her visually impaired mother can recognise her from the stands) and hope she’s back next year.
  • I’m also a big fan of Crows coach Bec Goddard, one of the lamentably few female coaches in AFL (M or W), and a top person in her own right.
  • Things I would like to see next year: podcast The Outer Sanctum did some research and found out that there are only a dozen Indigenous players in the AFLW. This is not good enough, and I hope it improves.
  • I know it’s time for the AFLM season to start and all, but I’m so into this whole lady sportsball thing that I’m almost … ready to start seeking out … pro netball? Is that streaming anywhere? Am I ready to put my twenty-five years of hating netball behind me?

posted by [syndicated profile] creativefidget_feed at 12:18am on 29/03/2017

Posted by chocolatetrudi

One Sunday morning recently I woke up at 5am and thought “I’d like to tackle the mending and refashioning pile today”. I fully expected to have forgotten or changed my mind by the time I’d fallen asleep and woken at my usual time, but I didn’t.

So out came the sewing machine, supplies, dress form and basket of clothing to fix or tweak. After making piles of clothes of similar fabric, in order of time needed, I tackled the mending to warm up. Then I hit the non-stretch fabric clothes.

First up was a red shirt I’d made the pattern for in my 20s. The underarms were now too tight. All I needed to do was remove the sleeves.


Next came the cheesecloth top I’d embellished with handwoven tape. It had the opposite problem: too big. I simply took it in at the side and sleeve seams.


I also took another top in at the sides where the armholes gaped, but it’s too small overall so I put it with some items for the op-shop. Not much point showing that one.

The second pile was all stretch fabric. First up was a skivvy I made in my 20s. Too tight overall, not surprisingly. I did one of my sleeve-to-side-panel fixes, then removed the collar and cut a scoop neckline.


The next one just needed the arms removed. It was the least successful refashion, because I decided to bind the armholes with material from the sleeves, but I guessed the length of the stip of material and made it too long. The armhole gaped. The next day I cut the binding off and did it again, and the result was much better.

Another sleeve-to-side-panel fix followed. The jacket was a little too small when I bought it 12 years ago, but it was a bargain and I loved it. As a vest it should give me many more years of wear.


The next day, after the binding fix, I attacked an old shirt of Paul’s and made another sleeveless top. I took the pocket off because it wound up in an odd position and discovered too late that the fabric beneath is a little less faded. I’m still thinking of ways to hide this.

posted by [syndicated profile] the_angriest_feed at 09:45am on 29/03/2017

Posted by Grant

I had honestly assumed that Rebels, a historical comic book by Brian Wood and Andrew Mutti, was done and dusted. It told a story of Seth Abbott, a soldier in the American War of Independence, as well as a few side narratives here and there. It was exceptional stuff: well researched in both writing and art, and intelligently and thoughtfully presented. Then the issues stopped coming out, and I simply assumed low sales or creative disinterest had killed the book off.

Suddenly Dark Horse are back publishing Rebels: These Free and Independent States, a new follow-up storyline that jumps forward a generation to tell the story of Seth Abbott's son John. He is a quiet, intelligent boy clearly living somewhere along the autism spectrum, but he knows ships intimately: their names and routes, their designs, and their construction. As a young man he's encouraged into shipbuilding by his father, just in time for the United States of America to enter its first major naval conflict.

It's engaging history, smartly written and nicely illustrated. I adore historical drama in comic book form, and Brian Wood - through this and Northlanders - is one of the best writers of the genre. I hope Rebels sticks around for at least another few issues in this form: it's great stuff. (4/5)

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #1. Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Lauren Affe.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hulk and Spider-Gwen, as well as bonus late reviews of Justice League of America and Super Sons.

Detective Comics #953
DC Comics. Written by James Tynion IV. Art by Christian Duce and Fernando Blanco. Colours by Alex Sinclair with Allen Passalaqua.
Gotham City is in chaos, with Batman accused of murder, the public convinced there has been a major attack by the Joker, Lady Shiva running rampant across the city, and Cassandra Cain - desperate and confused - trying to come to terms with a mother who abandoned here. The beautiful thing about this "League of Shadows" arc is that writer James Tynion IV has managed to make a story that's not only entertaining but difficult to predict. The situation is dire, and at present there seems no easy solution to the crisis. Then there's that last page reveal. This continues to be a great book, and the extended cast really helps it to stand out from other Batman comics. (4/5)

Hulk #4
Marvel. Written by Mariko Tamaki. Art by Nico Leon. Colours by Matt Milla.
Generally speaking, Hulk has been great. It can boast a smart and emotionally powerful new take on protagonist Jen Walters. Mariko Tamaki's character work is excellent. Nico Leon is providing what feels like career-best artwork, and Matt Milla's colours complement that work very nicely. Sadly, however, this specific issue is that filler in the middle of a story arc when not enough plot occurs, and not enough new information is provided to the reader. It feels like its treading water to ensure the plot runs for enough issues to fill a trade paperback. Individual parts are nice, but the whole is slightly unsatisfying. (3/5)

Spider-Gwen #18
Marvel. Written by Jason Latour. Art by Robbi Rodriguez. Colours by Rico Renzi.
The dimension-hopping crossover between Spider-Gwen and Spider-Man concludes with a often gut-bustingly funny chase through a range of parallel universes. The better-read Marvel fans in the readership will find it a delight; others will still find it funny, although will miss the amusement of seeing familiar alternate takes on famous characters. Overall this six-part storyline has been a little hit and miss. The humour of the piece has been great, particularly the interactions between Miles and Gwen, but in the end it felt a little too inconsequential: a fun read, but not a necessary one. (3/5)

Finally, two comics from previous weeks that have been sitting on the shelf waiting to be read.

Justice League of America #2
DC Comics. Written by Steve Orlando. Art by Felipe Watanabe and Scott Hanna. Colours by Hi-Fi.
Defeating Lord Havok and the Extremists is hard enough, but what if Havok becomes the legitimate ruler of a sovereign nation? It's a nice twist by writer Steve Orlando, but it does not feel like quite enough to push this book out of 'good' and into 'great'. There is already a Justice League book on the market with a much more famous set of characters, so there is a bit more work required to justify this parallel team's existence. Solid writing, solid art, but not a must-read. (3/5)

Super Sons #2
DC Comics. Written by Peter J. Tomasi. Art by Jorge Jimenez. Colours by Alejandro Sanchez.
Robin and Superboy are on the trail of Kid Amazo, even though their first mission has already put them into direct confrontation with Lex Luthor. This is a smart, funny, well-paced series. Peter Tomasi has a well established handle on both Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne, and their interactions are the absolute highlight of the book. One surprise is just how dark it gets: we have a child murdering people here, and while it works on a dramatic level it does sadly push this title out of the 'all-ages' bracket where it arguably could have been more valuable. (4/5)
posted by [syndicated profile] dndwithpornstars_feed at 12:51pm on 28/03/2017

Posted by Zak Sabbath

God damn there's a lot of talky NPCs and things to keep straight in the Maze of the Blue Medusa.

My players are in the Reptile Archive, but they still don't have their Chameleon Woman paladin with them who actually cares about the Reptile Archive.

In addition to cleverly outside-the-boxing past the undead bees and the Scorodron, they re-visited the Laughing Lich and The Guys That Think The Dungeon Is Their Hell, they ran into The Guy That Talks Constantly To The Glass History Golem, The Guy That Plays the Weird Organ of Forgotten Sounds (Acontias Skink--renamed "cunt skank" by the girls after he turned out to be way too self-absorbed), The Guy That Transcribes The Things That He Hears From The Engine That Collects Forgotten Sounds, The Guy Who Wants To Overthrow the Dungeon's "Power Structure", and found The Teapots That Have The DNA of Every Adventurer Who Died Looking For Them, they also heard The Faint Tinkling Noise, The Murmuring Noise and the Strangely Haunting Plangent Music of Acontias Skink but I forgot to include the Moaning Golem Faces On The Bridge...

They also got the ranger's animal companion ape addicted to a Crack Beast and had to save it but mostly they talked a lot--and they were good at it, too. But the best part of the adventure was when they finally got in a real fight:

They walk out onto the narrow bridge, I rolled some Chameleon Women on the random encounters. Everybody failed their perception check.

The first one throws a net over the barbarian, the second casts a version of Web which makes the net extend over the barbarian and ranger, blocking the bridge.

Now Stokely is playing her barbarian for the first time, after having lost two characters in this dungeon already.

"How do we get out of this Web?"

"Well it's a strength check."

"Oh god"

"If only you had some way to make sure you succeeded on a strength check..."

"Oh yeah Rage"

Stokely's barbarian rages for the first time, picks up the nearest chameleon woman, natural 20s to throw her over the edge of the bridge. Then the ranger knocks and arrow, aces Intimidate and scares off the rest.

Then on the way back though the bridge room later, I roll another wandering monster check and get the result that tells you you're getting hungry.

So because everybody's been through the Gallery where time speeds up and food spoils, nobody's got anything. They gotta crawl down there to the bottom of the pit, butcher the chameleon woman and eat her. Then a random NPC party rolled up and they had to share.

D&D is such a good game you guys.

I also got to test out these things that All Rolled Up made (use the links, their website makes the Maze look straightforward):


posted by [syndicated profile] tilesorstuds_feed at 01:09pm on 28/03/2017

Posted by Robinson

LEGO Fan and member Primoz Mlakar shared a perspective scene from Back to the Future Part II in a old iconic Sony TV. Late 80's TV is 58 studs wide, 58 studs long, and 43 bricks high. We always see different objects from real life in minifigure scale but it's whole a different experience. The canal display is add realism to the MOC.

Posted by John Scalzi

For the parking lot aficionados, bask in the glory of not one, not two, but three entirely separate parking structures! Parkingpalooza! That really catches us up on the parking lots, which had been a bit sparse the last few days.

Also: Hello, Dallas! Tonight at 7 you can see me at Half Price Books! So do! I will be lonely without you. All of you. Every single citizen of Dallas. Yes.

Tomorrow: Chicago, my collegiate stomping grounds! Volumes Bookcafe at 7pm. The event is sold out (yikes!).

And then I get to go home for a few days. Wheee!

Links for you today: A review of The Collapsing Empire at Ars Technica: The Collapsing Empire is a hilarious tale of humanity’s impending doom. And then, from me: Five Books I Was Thinking Of When I Wrote The Collapsing Empire. Enjoy!

Posted by Kate Sierzputowski

Iceland-based artist James Merry (previously) uses sportswear logos as the basis to his embroidered designs, planting thread-based mushrooms, strawberries, and various flowers on top of Nike swooshes and the ADIDAS logo’s three bars. Although you might not guess it from the simplicity of his sportswear alterations, Merry is a key collaborator with Björk, and has designed many of her costumes for tour and film. You can see more of his blossoming sports logos and elaborate costume designs on his website and Instagram.

posted by [syndicated profile] wavewithoutashore_feed at 04:32pm on 28/03/2017

Posted by CJ

Caught a rec from a reader on Facebook, and it seems to be a good one. MailWasher—a freeware. It parks itself like a vulture on the phone-wire, so to speak, and picks off what you designate as bad sources. It can even (read the tips they provide) keep you from even seeing them, if it’s a habitual and obnoxious offender. The other spams it will let you see, and you can change their status.

From 50 annoyances a day, one day gave me the joy of tagging them, and the next day—absent from my awareness. Works with Thunderbird and various other mail programs. Pretty easy to set up: it’ll give you a convenient icon of your e-mail provider which you can use to access it, and a trash bin you can take a look at before nuking wholesale. Pretty hard to lose a good e-mail, and the clutter in the mailbox is history: you can now see the ones you need to see and be rid of the junk.

My primary development machine has been a series of nicely specced MacBook Pros for about 7 years. Over that time I’ve grown to love these shiny boxes of aspiration.

My current machine dropped out of AppleCare in 2016 though, so it was time to start thinking about a replacement for my main work machine - as usual the previous model would be downgraded to our casual machine and would stick around for a good few years afterwards (or so I thought). So like many people I watched the 2016 MacBook Pro announcement with initial excitement, followed by a creeping “WTF?!”.

Touch Bar: a costly gimmick in more than just $$

Screw this thing

Like a lot of developers, the 2016 MacBook Pro Touch Bar does nothing for me. At best, it’s a gimmick I don’t really need - I’m a keyboard jockey and I do everything with muscle memory, the last thing I want to be doing is looking down at the keyboard and hunting / pecking, as bright and colourful as those little targets might be.

But at worst, that OLED Touch Bar has not only pushed the price of the MacBook Pro much higher than it warrants, but, sin of all sins, it has removed a genuinely tactile key that I, and many other developers, use regularly: the Escape key.

You can’t just take away a key we use regularly and replace it with a response-less glass surface and pretend nothing happened. To have Craig Federighi laughing about how function keys are so 1970s IBM while completely ignoring the removal of the Escape key was particularly insulting. I used a key you just removed 10 times just while you’ve been chuckling at your crap joke, Craig! 😫

I’m sure there are those who say the Touch Bar is useful but truth is, removing a key I use all the time and charging me hundreds of pounds extra for the ‘privilege’ of a mini Apple Watch to replace it feels like a “F*** You”. You lost me as a customer for the 2016 rev Apple, and from the channels I follow I think I’m far from alone.

So I figured I’d hang on to my old MBP and wait to see what happened.

Time to die

Unfortunately in the last couple of weeks my 2013 MacBook Pro has started occasionally kernel panicking with a RAM failure, and the “T” key has phases where it decides to either not work, or randomly generate keystrokes. A number of people I know on Twitter have reported that their 2013 MBPs are similarly starting to fail, leading to this conclusion:

Given how robust Apple hardware used to feel, this sucks pretty hard. Almost nothing is fixable in these machines any more; both the RAM and the keyboard are incorporated into the logic board, making it uneconomical to repair. 😭

Suddenly, I needed to do something about this pronto; waiting and seeing was no longer an option.

MacBook 13” Without Touch Bar

I considered this option - a real Escape key, and for less money! But, as a primary dev machine it just wouldn’t fly; even if you ignored the smaller screen and slower CPUs, it only has 2 USB-C ports, one of which you have to use for power.

I use an external 4K monitor too, so that’s both of them used; and I also like to use wired Gigabit when I’m home since it’s much faster, and have an external HDD. Yes I could have added a hub, but here’s the problem; the 2 things I would use, power and 4K display, are both not recommended to run through a hub. Drawing significant bandwidth through a hub sharing a 4K display could cause issues, since it’s demanding @60Hz on its own, and on the power side AFAICT most hubs do not supply the full wattage expected from a MBP on full charge, not even counting the power additional devices might draw. Some of them claim that’s it’s OK that it doesn’t meet Apple’s spec and it just means the MBP charges slower, but I’m iffy on that.

So really, 2 ports for a primary machine is just not enough. For me, anyway.

No new iMacs

I had considered buying an iMac; I don’t travel very much any more so there’s no real need for my main machine to be portable now. But Apple haven’t updated the iMac in 18 months, and when combined with a post-Brexit-malaise drop in Sterling, a 2015 iMac is looking very overpriced for what it is.

Plus, once again it’s not a machine that can be fixed easily. I used to be more laid back about that because my Apple machines have lasted at least 6-7+ years, but having an entire high-end machine become a write-off after 3.5 years is less attractive.

There’s also this sneaky feeling that Apple don’t care about our customer segment any more. And I’m not even one of those who paid through the nose for a Mac Pro that never got any updates and was just left hanging. How do you do that to your most fanatical, big spending customers? 🤔


Lastly, I considered building a Hackintosh. The process is a lot more reliable these days, although you never know what Apple might do in future updates. I like using macOS enough that it was a serious option on the table that I almost took.

But, the uncertainty of the future of such a route, plus the fact that my development priorities are changing (see below), meant I eventually ruled it out.

Changing priorities

I decided to start doing game development late last year, and I’ve been using my MacBook Pro to do it. It works great for the most part. But, if I’m completely honest, a Mac isn’t the place where gamedev is most suited:

  • Mac GPU drivers are always well behind the curve
  • Many engines & gamedev tools support Windows better, or are even Windows only
  • The vast majority of Steam/ customers are on Windows; it makes sense to be using what your customers use most of the time

So far I’ve just managed to ignore this, but the difficulty in refreshing my Mac hardware in a way I felt happy with forced me to really look at things again.

And like it or not, I have to admit that as a budding game developer, Windows is a more suitable platform. I’ll still need access to a Mac if I want to port something to iPad (I don’t plan to make any phone games) but that won’t be my primary target.

A tough decision

I’ve really agonised about this becuase I genuinely love my Mac dev environment. There are things it does that are much nicer for me as a user than Windows:

  • Consistent support of Retina/HiDPI screens
  • A terminal that’s a joy to use (ZSH - yes I know about Windows Subsystem For Linux but grafting a whole separate OS onto the side isn’t the same thing as a great terminal that works consistently with everything else)
  • Application state restoration when I reboot - even my terminal comes back to where it was
  • Apps that are just nicer looking - Cocoa’s robust history shows all the time and every app I use on both platforms is way nicer on macOS
  • Homebrew - just the best way to get supplemental system software

Ultimately though, I can’t afford to blow a vastly inflated sum of money on something that I don’t like much (MBP 2016), is out of date (iMac 2015), which will become unfixable after 3 years (having lost my previous faith in its longevity), and which is no longer fits my changing work environment best. It’s really sad, but I cannot ignore the logical argument any longer, even if emotionally I’d love to carry on with macOS.

It’s not all Apple’s fault; my circumstances changed, and the drop in Sterling because of Brexit has exacerbated things. But despite that, I do think their hardware offerings have dropped the ball lately, at least outside the consumer / prosumer space. Maybe they’ll fix that to a degree with an iMac update soon, but it will be too late for me.

Mac; back to a secondary platform

I’ll still have Macs in the house; my wife’s 2011 iMac is now my dev machine for macOS things, and I may well buy a new casual Mac laptop for travelling, just not a tricked-out primary dev machine.

Essentially things will be back to how they were in 2009 and before; Mac as a casual / secondary platform for me.

Adios to the “Mac as primary dev machine” years, 2010-2017. 😞

vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)
posted by [personal profile] vass at 03:53am on 29/03/2017 under
[being for the past fortnight. I'm posting now before it gets any more behind]


Finished Too Flash. Interesting, and not what I thought it was going to be like. The structure of the book felt like it was searching for its own heart, its own subject, in the same way that the protagonist, Zo, was searching for hers. Both book and character got there in the end. It reminded me of Jenny Pausacker's Central High books in some ways, but more up to date and much less white. I want to read more by Lucashenko. Tiny disappointment: I thought Zo was gay or bi (there was a line earlier on that sounded like it confirmed this, plus she and Missy had some UST going on) but that never got followed up.

Back to wrestling with Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It got better, and then it got worse again.

"Usually this leadership group is made up of men..." [here I stopped reading and said aloud "Well, there's your problem right there"] "...of men who in one way or another have belonged to the social strata of the dominators. At a certain point, in their existential experience, under certain historical conditions, these men renounce the class to which they belong and join the oppressed, in an act of true solidarity (or so one would hope)." Isn't it nice when the picture you draw of What This Revolution Needs comes out looking exactly like you?

So, comrade Freire, why can't the oppressed class be the revolutionary leaders? "It is extremely unlikely that these self-mistrustful, downtrodden, hopeless people will seek their own liberation -- an act of rebellion which they may view as a disobedient violation of the will of God, as an unwarranted confrontation with destiny." Oh. I see.

You know how I wrote earlier about the inherent contradictions in writing a book about revolutionary education for oppressed illiterates written in jargon even most university graduates would have some difficulty with? There is no contradiction. He's THAT guy. The one who is here for you, everything he is doing here is for YOUR sake, he WANTS to help you realise your full potential, but you have to do it on his terms, and he's the one who decides when you've learned the necessary lessons.

Which will only come when you accept him as your new thought leader while simultaneously humouring his fantasy that because he "betrayed" his ruling class background to come help liberate you from their rule by becoming your new leader, that means he's just as working class as you.

He even writes about this particular danger of revolutionary leaders and how they should be careful NOT to fall into that trap.

19 more pages to go. There are some really great paragraphs here, and some fucking awful chapters. :(

[Disclaimer: my parents are an academic and a psychologist. QED, I am not working class myself. I'm on disability, but I have more safety net than most people on disability because of my family, and also the privilege of not having been poor growing up, and of having been taught/enabled to regard authority figures as my social equals. I think it's important for me to acknowledge this while I'm tearing strips out of someone else for his unchecked privilege, lest I sound even more like Seivarden Vendaai Discovers Class Discourse 101. While I have had my own run-ins with "that guy" described above, mine were on a different axis of privilege, disability not class.]

Started reading Kate Elliott's Black Wolves, the first of her books I've read. So far... it's not hard work, and that's a relief, that's why I picked up a blockbuster fantasy novel from the library, and I do like the setting, but I do feel like it's missing something. Some subtle flavour or other. Maybe it'll show up later in the book.

TV and Movies

Went to see Hidden Figures. SO good.

It's so important that this movie got made, and did well, that it'd be churlish to criticise it at all. But if I did have a criticism, it'd be that it bent over a bit too far in the Not ALL White People direction. Which was probably what they had to do, to get it past the gatekeepers. The business with the bathroom sign in particular was a white saviour fantasy on a level I can only express in hexadecimal, namely #FFFFFF. (And I didn't notice the swearword hashtag until looking again at what I just typed, but I stand by it.)

APART from that bullshit, just... well, it's actually amazing how little of that bullshit there was, and how much they pushed back at it. Like the part when Kirsten Dunst's character (successful white career woman who's possibly (the film didn't state either way) very supportive of her white female colleagues, but is pulling up that ladder behind them as fast as she can) meets Dorothy Vaughan in the bathroom and tries to be all "believe it or not, I have nothing against you," and gee, I suppose, but you sure are not even one fraction of one percent for her, are you? And Octavia Spencer, as Dorothy Vaughan, replies something like "I can believe that you might think that," which is as close to a "you keep telling yourself that, arsehole" as she could possibly have gotten under the circumstances.

Taraji P. Henson's performance as Katherine Johnson was the heart of the film, and she and Janelle Monáe's Mary Jackson were amazing, but the part I loved the most was actually Dorothy Vaughan's arc, about thinking forward to the need to retrain herself and her workers as programmers so they wouldn't be put out of work by the new computing machines. When she taught herself FORTRAN and taught all her workers too and insisted they be hired along with her.

And this wasn't presented as some sort of fluffy innate nurturing quality in her, some sort of facile 'Johnson's the smart one, Jackson's the sexy one, Vaughan's the motherly one.' Ugh. It could have been, but it wasn't. You could see that all three of the protagonists were brilliant (and nurturing, and romantic/sexual people.) Vaughan got a couple of scenes on her own with the IBM machine, troubleshooting it and using punchcards for the first time (identifying it as female -- you could see the logic there: all the human computers are women, so the digital computer must be female too; and she could have hated it or wanted to sabotage it, but she didn't, she saw its beauty immediately) and you could see that that was where she wanted to be, where her genius was. Her teaching and looking after her team (above and beyond the requirements of her job, I mean) was because it was the right thing to do. An act of solidarity, of justice.

Watched some more B99. It's interesting, because I do have an embarassment squick, but it's gotten less intense lately and I forgot it existed. The Thanksgiving episode reminded me. *cringe*


More Stardew Valley, of course. My veggies took first prize at the fair. Suck it, Pierre! Emoji have a lot to answer for: every time I pull up an eggplant, I think of dicks. Disconcerting.


Finished the Archon Drom story arc of The Hidden Almanac, which was a lot of fun. I am staring down the barrel of a Hidden Almanac shortage, though. Gonna have to find something else soothing and safe to listen to right before bed. It might be time to catch up on my Jay and Miles X-Plain The X-Men listening. Which is not nearly as soothing, but is safe for whatever nebulous value of safe my backbrain assigns to such things.


Started my first compost bin. Beatrice and Dorian helped by supplying the bin's first contribution, the contents of their litter boxes. I am informed that this means I shouldn't use the resulting compost on my veggies, under penalty of toxoplasmosis, but it's fine for flowers. So I'll start some flowers, and it'll mean Beatrice and Dorian aren't contributing as much to landfill. Go them.

Bunnings are selling daffodil bulbs, and oh yeah, that's because it's March, and March is when the bulbs go on sale. I forgot, because it is STILL FUCKING SUMMER. I bought a value-bag of 14 and put them in the crisper drawer of the fridge, because like fuck is it time to plant them.

I also bought another marigold (how are marigolds still flowering?) and a couple of tiny cacti which I put in a planter on the windowsill in one room where the cats aren't allowed (the one with what Dorian likes to believe is a cat-sized swimming pool) and added little Pokemon figurines. There is already a plastic skull on that windowsill. I ROCK at interior decor.

Tomatoes are still growing even though it is nearly April. But global warming is just a myth, right? One of the Russian Black ones finally ripened enough for me to eat it, and it may have been the best tomato I ever tasted. I'm not usually given to hyperbole, and I want to hedge that "best" even further because I'm shit at ranking things best-worst and I can't remember all the tomatoes I've eaten, and Russian Black tomatoes are normally very good... but wow that was a good tomato. Easily the best one I've eaten this year.


Playing with i3wm customisation. I've been using i3 for nearly a year now, but hadn't done more than the bare minimum to make it habitable (i.e. moved the bar up the top and deleted the alerts I didn't need so they wouldn't glare red at me) until now. I have now learned about the screen locker app, proper deployment of feh as a wallpaper app, and some very minor keybinding adjustments.

I also created a test user account and messed harder than that with the settings there (trying to learn the GNU stash app, and to import other people's dotfiles unaltered) with less success (unless you count the fact that I did so on a test account and didn't lock myself out of my own user account -- that's its own sort of success.)

Other customisations I want to do soon:

- the config line that looks in a wallpaper directory and randomly picks a different one for each workspace, each session (the Arch wiki is extremely helpful on what exact line to put in your config to do that. I love the Arch wiki.)

- the "open this application in this workspace on startup" thing. Which is complicated because I have seven different Firefox windows open, all full of tabs, and Opinions on which one should be in which workspace, but as far as i3 knows they're all just Firefox. And workspace 1 is terminals, of course, but last time I tried to use the i3 script that lets you save your layout, I fell into a maze of twisty Perl back-compatibility problems, all alike. But even if I just tell if to open one terminal in workspace 1, open all the Firefoxes in workspace 2, and open a text editor in workspace 9, that's a start, right?

- the one I would really love to do, but suspect is going to be more difficult and complicated than I'd like to think: terminal transparency, with a different background behind each terminal window. I have these motivational memes (an angry lion captioned 'Gladly Feast On Those Who Would Subdue You' and so on, and of course Heal Yourself, Skeletor, and Calmage Wolfatee and so on) that I'd like to be able to see dimly behind my terminals. I figure that because i3 does containers and each window is in its own container, it should be possible to run a different instance of feh in each new container in workspace 1, but I haven't tested it and this is way beyond my level of knowledge or experience.

- a pleasing and harmonious colour scheme for terminal text and the i3 bar (I'd like to use lemonbar, but haven't gotten lemonbar to work yet.)


Beatrice would like it noted for the record that she is still a ferocious predator. She would enter the little blue and yellow polyester feather-ball cat toy thing in evidence, but she doesn't want to let go of it just yet. She thinks it might still be alive.
March 28th, 2017

Posted by Colossal + Adobe

Tiina Törmänen / Adobe Stock

Finding the perfect visual asset for your next creative project can seem like a daunting endeavor. With an endless stream of possibilities it can be difficult to find the image or video that truly stands out and speaks to your audience in a unique way. Recognizing this, Adobe has gathered together some of the most eye-popping imagery you won’t find anywhere else available through Adobe Stock Premium.

For the month of March, in conjunction with Women’s History Month, Adobe is celebrating its own female creators. This week we explore Finnish photographer Tiina Törmänen who has already lived a multitude of lives with years spent perfecting her skills as a BMX biker, working as professional chef, and apprenticing in a photographer’s studio. Her wildly diverse background now influences her breathtaking landscape photography, where trekking solo at night on a snow mobile—with emergency skis strapped to the side—is just part of the job.

Tiina Törmänen / Adobe Stock

Tiina Törmänen / Adobe Stock

Tiina Törmänen / Adobe Stock

Although Törmänen has had a camera in-hand for much of her life, it was only recently that she began to point it away from people and out into the expansive landscape that surrounds her. Endless fields of stars, shimmering northern lights, and secretive forest scenes are all hallmarks of her photography. Törmänen likens the skills required to shoot landscapes to those she used for people, a split-second moment where clicking the shutter captures “the soul of the person, the landscape, where you can see the true beauty of it all.”

You can find many of Törmänen’s incredible photographs available for licensing in Adobe Stock’s Premium collection, a selection of highly curated images as unique as your next creative project. Adobe Stock is seamlessly integrated into Creative Cloud applications, so you can search, view, edit, and license photographs, videos, illustrations, vector graphics, 3D assets and more without leaving your creative workflow. Monthly subscription plans are available for individuals, small teams, and enterprise solutions. Learn more about plans and pricing on Adobe Stock. If you’re interested in selling your own stock photos and videos, visit the Adobe Contributor Portal.

Tiina Törmänen / Adobe Stock

Tiina Törmänen / Adobe Stock

Tiina Törmänen / Adobe Stock

This post was sponsored by Adobe Stock.

Posted by Kate Sierzputowski

Illustrator and graphic designer Simon Prades (previously here and here) creates illusion and intrigue through old school methods of illustration, choosing to loyally stick to pen and ink as his go-to medium. Despite choosing to clean up and sometimes color his work digitally, Prades’ physical mark making remains apparent, such as in the realistic details provided in his subjects’ faces.

The German illustrator tends to focus on select colors when creating work for clients such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and The Atlantic, staying within a palette of bright greens and yellows, and muted blues. You can see more of Prades’ recent editorial work on his Instagram, Tumblr and Behance.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

The Libertarian Futurist Society
has announced five finalists for the Best Novel category of the 37th annual Prometheus Awards

The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Corporation Wars: Insurgence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins)
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Lola Rogers) (Grove Press/Black Cat)
Blade of p'Na by L. Neil Smith (Phoenix Pick)
theferrett: (Meazel)

1) Pokemon Nails!
It’s been a couple of months since I updated my Pretty Pretty Princess Nail Gallery, where you can see a visual history of my fabulous nail designs – but this week Ashley damn near killed herself to do Pokemon nails for me.  She had to redraw Jigglypuff like four times, and now hates Jigglypuff. But the nails came out great!

Pokémon nails!

Pokémon nails!

2) Fix On Audiobook!
For you fine audiophiles, the final book in my ‘Mancer series is finally available as an audiobook on Audible! For a mere $14.99, you can listen to weaponized paperwork magic, a battle at the heart of a dying Europe, the struggle of a brainwashed daughter, and also – as always – testimonies to the goodness of donuts!

(EDIT: And apparently, if you bought Fix through Amazon, you can get the audio upgrade for a mere $3.49. Nice.)

Also, I hesitate to mention again, but my upcoming book The Uploaded is available for pre-order, and pre-ordering super-helps authors. I’m also stoked about it because for the first time, the copyeditor made an alphabetized list of all the proper names and terms used in the book to keep everything consistent, and the lists make this book sound even weirder than it is.

3)  Me In A Story!
So I was complaining to my friend Alex Shvartsman (a name old Magic fans may recognize as a former pro from Magic’s Grand Prix circuit) that nobody tuckerizes a guy with a name like “Ferrett.” I mean, my books are rife with names of real-life people I’ve slipped into there as minor characters, ranging from Ken Liu to an appropriately gender-swapped Ann Leckie to Sean Patrick Kelly and other buddies… but it’s hard to put in a guy with a name like “Ferrett” and not have it stand out.

“I’ll do it,” Alex said. “I like a challenge.”

So he wrote me into a science-fiction golfing story. Seriously.

And I thought, “Wow, that’s great,” but then Alex had to sell the story. And who would buy a story about science-fiction golfing with a guy named Ferrett as a side character?

The question I should have been asking is, “Can Alex sell that story?” And you bet your buns he can! He even sold it at pro rates, damn his talented soul! And so if you want to read that tale – and why wouldn’t you? – it’s currently free to read for the next five weeks or so.

Thank you, Alex. Seriously. It’s nice to see my name in print.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
posted by [syndicated profile] shenzhen_noted_feed at 11:30am on 28/03/2017

Posted by Mary Ann O'Donnell now online. For those interested in the maps and insights that we produced for the “mini-wiki” those images and ideas are also online. I’m working on getting the English versions up online. In the meantime, enjoy!

posted by [syndicated profile] twentysidedtale_feed at 11:00am on 28/03/2017

Posted by Shamus

I’m sure you’re familiar with Match-3 games. It’s this omnipresent thing in the world of mobile gaming. BeJeweled is the most famous example, although I think Candy Crush is the one that’s made the most money. There are literally hundreds of these things floating around out there in various cloned forms. They’re ideally suited to mobile gaming. The interface is simple, it’s colorful, you don’t depend on audio cues, and the rounds last about five minutes. That’s perfect for a game to play on your phone while waiting for the bus.

But these games are also sort of shallow and broken. Their gameplay is crippled by specific flaws that pushes the player into boring play. The most interesting play is different from the most rewarding way to play. It’s like a version of Space Invaders where the way to get the best score is to stand still and spam the attack button as fast as possible instead of dodging and aiming your shots.

Broken things

andrewducker: (Default)

Posted by caperberry

Taking another small break from our parts festival, today sees the return not only of the interesting new Minecraft piece (which BrickLink have named 'Wedge, Plate 2 x 2 Pentagonal with Center Stud and 1 x 1/2 Raised Tab on Top') but also of Jonas Kramm and his apparent predilection for street furniture!

In my previous article I showed you a long list of highlights from the new LEGO® Minecraft sets. Today I will present you the first ideas I came up with using the new mould, the modified 2x2 wedge plate in Reddish Brown (Element ID 6163991|Design ID 27928). Luckily we get a great number of this part — 24! — in the set 21130 The Nether Railway [available from Amazon US and Amazon UK], so I could play around with some ideas that use it repetitive ways. The generated structures immediately inspired me to build two fence designs.

Continue reading »
posted by [syndicated profile] dotaturls_feed at 07:31am on 28/03/2017
posted by [syndicated profile] dotaturls_feed at 07:30am on 28/03/2017

Posted by fictionmachine

With Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) now controlling the Flying Dutchman and its monstrous captain Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), the age of piracy seems set to violently end. That is, unless the united pirate lords – including Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), the recently resurrected Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the recently deceased Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) can unite to make a final stand.

The final film of an intended trilogy has a different problem to the middle film. The middle’s problem is precisely that: it begins in the middle, runs through the middle, and ends still in the middle. Very little can be resolved, because all of the story elements need to remain in play for the climactic instalment to follow. Once you reach that final instalment, there is suddenly nothing much to do but wrap up plot elements and bring things to a close. At World’s End does precisely that, but it does take the long and complicated way around while doing it. At 169 minutes including the end credits, this is an action film for which the term ‘bloat’ seems invented.

One pitfall this third film manages to avoid is the problem of re-introducing Jack Sparrow to the narrative. We know exactly where he is from the outset: dead and consigned for eternity to the mythical Davy Jones’ Locker. This therefore frees the film up to dive immediately into rescuing him from the afterlife with a mysterious map charting the route beyond the physical world and a borrowed Chinese junk on which to make the journey. It is a neat first act, and one highly reminiscent of Return of the Jedi‘s rescue of Han Solo. It sets up a new team of pirates led by Barbossa in concert with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). It establishes some of the film’s key emotional struggles: chiefly that Will and Elizabeth are drifting apart due to misunderstanding and circumstance, but also that the pirate lords of the world must unite to present a proper defence against the East India Company. It even introduces a new pirate captain in the shape of Chow Yun-Fat’s criminally under-used Sao Feng.

The Locker itself is a weirdly self-indulgent Gilliamesque masterpiece, with multiple Sparrows, rocks that transform into crabs, and the Black Pearl seemingly stranded in the middle of  flat, featureless desert. It is an intriguing representation of hell: a ship with no ocean to sail on, crewed by 30 different versions of the same man. Hell for Jack Sparrow, it seems, is not other person but simply himself. Visually it is remarkable. Tonally it pushes At World’s End even further into the realms of fantasy. By the film’s exceedingly over-the-top finale, it feels close to an aquatic Lord of the Rings: sea people versus pirates, an undead captain surviving with his heart in a box, and a vengeful goddess creating whirlpools and storms in an attempt to kill damn-near everyone. The amount of CGI used in the film vastly exceeds that if its two predecessors, and that gives the film a more less realistic, more glassy look. It is the same problem that affected Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy: the larger the scale of the conflict, the less realistic it becomes. There is still plenty of outstanding material on show, but there is a law of diminishing returns. It feels as if each Pirates instalment is a little less impressive than the last, despite repeatedly becoming bigger, more elaborate and more inventive. By this third film it does feel like a bit of a mess.

Both Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley feel particularly strong this time around, in part because each character gets their own distinctive trajectory through the story. For Bloom that means Will betraying his companions to save his father’s soul from the clutches of Davy Jones. For Knightley it means Elizabeth becoming a fully-fledged pirate captain as she had always dreamed. The film does an excellent job of concluding their stories in a satisfying yet slightly unexpected fashion, combining both happiness and sadness in one. Many of the supporting characters are also well treated, including Commodore James Norrington (Jack Davenport), “Bootstrap” Turner (Stellan Skarsgård) and Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). The character of Tia Dalma, played engagingly in Dead Man’s Chest by Naomie Harris, gets both a massive increase in material and a sharp change in tone; she adds to the generally bleak tone of the overall film. As for Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, the exaggerated performance from the second film continues – although at least in this case there’s a more appropriate and off-kilter film to contextualise it.

Hans Zimmer’s orchestral score is fantastic, and to my mind the best of the three films. Not only does it maintain the key musical themes, it adds two or three others that weave in and out providing further depth and emotion. He also throws in a few unexpected curveballs: the electric guitar-dominated western showdown music at one particular confrontation is a delightful surprise.

At World’s End does provide a satisfying conclusion to the overall trilogy, however when all is said and done the first film of the three really does stand up much better as a self-contained piece. The second and third films feel like a pleasant encore, but they simply cannot match the purity and storytelling efficiency of the original. In the specific case of At World’s End, while there are stunning action beats and images the scale and the length of the story let the film down. There is a much tighter, faster climax somewhere in the material, just waiting for a more disciplined director to slice away the fat.

Posted by cks

I have griped before (and recently) about how much of a pain it is to try to keep the number of kernels that Ubuntu installs on your machines under control. Writing your own script to remove obsolete kernels is fraught with challenges, but as it turns out I think we can do what we want with 'apt-get autoremove' and some extra work.

First, as Ewen McNeill said in a comment here back in 2015, it's the case that 'apt-get autoremove' will not remove a held package, kernel or otherwise. This makes a certain amount of sense, even if it's inconvenient. We can't keep kernels unheld in general for reasons covered here and here, but we probably can write a script that unholds them, runs 'apt-get autoremove', and holds the remaining kernels afterwards.

(Note that holding Ubuntu packages doesn't convert them from automatically installed packages to manually installed ones; it just holds them. You can see this with apt-mark, which also makes a handy way to hold and unhold packages on the command line.)

If you run apt-get autoremove with your kernel packages not held, you'll notice that it doesn't remove all of them. This naturally made me curious about what controlled this, and at least in Ubuntu the answer is in /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/01autoremove-kernels:

// DO NOT EDIT! File autogenerated by
// /etc/kernel/postinst.d/apt-auto-removal

This contains a list of kernel packages and package regular expressions that should not be autoremoved; generally it's going to contain your two most recent kernels. As the comment says, it's (re)created by a script when kernel packages are installed and removed. This script, /etc/kernel/postinst.d/apt-auto-removal, starts with a comment that does a pretty good job of explaining what it wants to do:

Mark as not-for-autoremoval those kernel packages that are:

  • the currently booted version
  • the kernel version we've been called for
  • the latest kernel version (as determined by debian version number)
  • the second-latest kernel version

In the common case this results in two kernels saved (booted into the second-latest kernel, we install the latest kernel in an upgrade), but can save up to four. Kernel refers here to a distinct release, which can potentially be installed in multiple flavours counting as one kernel.

The second rule here implies that if you install an old kernel by hand for some reason, it will get added to the manual exclusion list. Well, added to the current manual exclusion list, since the list is rebuilt on at least every kernel install.

Now, there is a very important gotcha with this whole setup: this list of kernels to never autoremove is only recreated when kernel packages are installed or otherwise manipulated. When you run 'apt-get autoremove', there is nothing that specifically preserves the kernel you are actually running right then. Normally you're probably booted into one of the preserved kernels. But you might not be; if you have to boot back into an old version for some reason and you then run 'apt-get autoremove', as far as I can see it's entirely possible for this to remove your kernel right out from underneath you. Possibly autoremove has specific safeguards against this, but if so I don't see them mentioned in the manpage and there's also this Ubuntu bug.

(As a result, our wrapper script is likely to specifically hold or keep held the actual running kernel.)

(I got some of this information from this askubuntu question and its answers.)

PS: This suggests that maximum safety comes from writing your own script to explicitly work out what kernels you can remove based on local policy decisions. Using 'apt-get autoremove' will probably work much of the time, but it's the somewhat lazy way. We're lazy, though, so we'll probably use it.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll at 10:27pm on 27/03/2017
I get to toy with being a living example of the Peter Principle at work.

Posted by cks

Today in an email message with the subject of [TUHS] Release of 8th, 9th and 10th Editions Unix, Warren Toomey announced that the Unix Heritage Society has now gained permission to make the source code of Research Unix's 8th, 9th, and 10th editions available for the usual non-commercial purposes. This apparently is the result of a significant lobbying campaign from a variety of Unix luminaries. The actual source trees can be found in TUHS' archive area for Research distributions.

Most people are familiar with Research Unix versions through V7 (the 7th Edition), which was the famous one that really got out into the outside world and started the Unix revolution. The 8th through 10th editions were what happened inside Bell Labs after this (with a trip through BSD for the port to Vaxen, among other things; see the history of Unix), and because Unix was starting to be commercialized around when they were being worked on by Bell Labs, they were never released in the way that the 7th Edition was. Despite that they were the foundation of some significant innovations, such as the original Streams and /proc, and for various reasons they acquired a somewhat legendary status as the last versions of the true original strain of Research Unix. Which you couldn't see or run, which just added to the allure.

You probably still can't actually run these editions, unless you want to engage in extensive hardware archaeology and system (re)construction. But at least the Unix community now has these pieces of history.

March 27th, 2017
posted by [syndicated profile] wavewithoutashore_feed at 08:42pm on 27/03/2017

Posted by CJ

That annual misery in which on the honor system and backed by penal code, Americans devote 4 otherwise productive weeks to trying to remember their highschool math, trying to figure who Fred G Wayne is and why you wrote him a check for 32.34 and called it deductible, and trying, over all, to figure a way the government owes you a refund instead of you owing the government.

I’m not sure, but probably hospitals get an uptick in cases about now…stress-related conditions.

Personally, I think national productivity would jump 10 percent if we just declared a national sales tax and forgot this madness, into which successive legislatures have attempted to inject ‘good spending’ like credits for buying a house and deducts for having a child…woe for the child born at 12:01 AM on January 1. He missed being a deduction for the preceding year.

The whole system is crazy.

Posted by Mike Taylor

A colleague asked me a couple of days ago: “So we roll version numbers forward only with breaking changes, right?”

Well, the best approch for any sane project in 2017 is to follow Semantic Versioning. That is not a long document to read, but here is a summary. In a nutshell, version numbers have three facets, major.minor.patch.

  • If your new release breaks something that used to work, increment major.
  • If your release adds new functionality that clients might want to rely on, increment minor.
  • If your release only fixes a bug, increment patch.

Then dependencies of the form “^3.4.2” (for example, in package.json for a JavaScript project) mean “that version, or anything backwards-compatible with it”. Which means the same major version number (3 in this case) and the same or better minor number (4 or higher); or, if the minor version is the same, then the same or better patch level (2 or higher).

This is an excellent, simple and battle-proven system.


It’s not used as universally as it should be, due to of widespread confusion between software version numbers (which are part of a project’s engineering) and marketing version numbers — where going to version 1.0 is a Whole Big Deal. As a result, some engineers are scared of moving their packages to a non-zero major number. And as a result of that, you sometimes see projects releasing both breaking and non-breaking changes within the 0.x series.

Folks: don’t do that. Use semantic versioning. No ifs, no buts. Let the marketing people bundle the whole thing up periodically and call it “Release 3, ‘Kaylee'” if they want to. Doesn’t matter to us.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)


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